Requiem For Eternity

This is a guest post by blogger and fashion designer Ya’ara Keydar.

Ya’ara is a talented designer who graduated from Shenkar College for Engineering and Design in 2006. After graduation she worked for a leading Israeli brand, and in recent years she designs beautiful and unique wedding gowns under her own name. Her blog, in the Hebrew language, is one of my favorites. It is called Nekudot, which literally means dots (as in polka dots), and is all about connecting the dots…. in each post she starts with an idea or concept (say pillows, or post-its) and explores how it visually translate in fashion and design through images from magazines, websites and films . The blog is truly inspiring, it’s the kind of thing when you read it you think to yourself: “this is so great, how come I didn’t think about it first???”
In this post Ya’ara tells about the research and inspiration for her senior year collection:

 

It was 2006, I was then in my senior year at Shenkar College, with absolutely no inspiration and no clue as to where my senior year collection was going. After seeking inspiration in any place possible, panic took over so I decided to spend a day at the periodicals floor at the college’s library.

The goal: Not to leave my seat before I find my inspiration topic, or to be dragged out of the library kicking and screaming- whichever come first.  The means: to flip ‘till I drop, with the hope that something will jump at me out of the pages.

After many long hours, the miracle happened.

Four pictures taken by photographer Paolo Ventura, titled Dressed for Eternity, took my breath away.

Photos by Paolo Ventura

After overcoming the first shock and creepy feeling that took over me, I started to read more about the project that was taken in burial catacombs in Sicily, called The Capuchin Catacombs.  I didn’t find too many pictures of the place online, but there was quite a lot of written material, from which I gathered that in this bizarre catacombs are about 8,000 mummified bodies, fully dressed with their everyday clothes- a surreal madness that is both revolting and astonishing in its beauty and power.

The burial catacombs were operated in the 16th century by monks who realized the cave provided a unique environment in which bodies were naturally preserved.  Soon after the first monk was placed in the catacombs, it replaced the traditional burial or cremation and became a status symbol for the people of the region. Between the 17th and 18th century (and even up to the early 1920s) 8,000 mummies were placed in the catacombs, of mostly men, women and children of high society, as it was quite expensive to maintain the bodies. All 8,000 mummies are attached to the walls side by side, dressed in their best garb, following the fashionable  trends of their times.

Capuchin Catacombs, photo by Paolo Ventura

The bodies, some are now merely skeletons and some fully preserved, are dressed in beautiful clothes, most are effected by time but the details are still visible. The clothes, covered in dust, turned yellow and are disintegrating. But they still stand as a vivid reminder to the period in which they were worn.

Capuchin Catacombs, photo by Paolo Ventura

Capuchin Catacombs, photo by Paolo Ventura

Below are representative examples of women’s dress from the 18th and 19th century, through which I studied the materials and silhouettes that were fashionable at the time mummies were put in the catacombs.

And then…..

During my days as a fashion student I had limited contact with the outside world; from time to time my dad would come and grab me away from the sewing machine to chat over coffee. That day, when I walked out of the library, realizing I have found a topic for my collection, he rang me up and we met. I showed him the pictures, and he, astound by this revelation, announced right there and then that we are to fly there together asap. And we did.

A week later I found myself in Palermo, Sicily, walking in the freezing hallways of the catacombs.

The author in the Capuchin Catacombs, photo by the author's father

I guess you can tell from the pictures I was slightly shocked. As a child my biggest nightmare was Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller, and regardless- visiting the Capuchin Catacombs is really quite a crazy experience. Even if you do not mean it, as you walk by the mummies and skeletons, many questions arise; complicated questions about life and death, the desire to live forever, and many thoughts about my beloved grandpa Dov, to whom we said goodbye in 2005, a year before these pictures were taken.

Despite all creepiness the clothes, skeletons and the catacombs themselves are visually striking. With my camera I was able to capture details that later became a direct influence on my collection.

Photograph by author

 

Photograph by author

photograph by author

 

 

And here are some pictures from my obsessively-kept sketch book:

My collection, titled Requiem For Eternity.  sprang from the realization that while the Capuchin people were not buried, the clothes they wear are in fact their tomb. The contrast between the spirit who’s time has come to leave the body, with that of the body who wants to stay on earth forever was at the center of my collection.

The project encapsulated the long path I’ve taken, that of raising and exploring questions, especially about the human desire to live forever and to leave our mark on this world. Is there an end to the body? to the soul? and what will be left of our clothes once we leave them?

I chose to clean the color palette to recreate a feeling I experienced in the catacombs, that of the loss of vitality, as a hint to the people who existed before me; as if time has passed through my designs, fading the colors away, leaving behind only vague memories of past life and the marks of time.

Here is the illustrated collection:

Requiem For Eternity, senior year collection, Shenkar College. Illustration by author

 

 

And here are some of the outfits from the collection:

And this is the song that served as soundtrack to the fashion show, by Pulp vs The Swingle Sisters:

My body may die but my heart will keep loving you baby
Oh, our love will survive the passing of time
Believe me, believe me

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